WH Spokesman: 'Our Country Is Safer Than It Was 8 Years Ago'

Susan Jones | June 15, 2016 | 6:39am EDT
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President Obama and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made similar points, using similar language, in speeches on Tuesday, June 14, 2016, but the White House says there was no coordination between them. (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "The president does believe it is important that his successor is somebody who recognizes that our country is safer than it was eight years ago, that we enhanced our standing around the world, that we've strengthened our alliances -- that we have refined and improved and strengthened our homeland security," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday.

"The American people do face a question about whether or not they want to build on that progress, because there surely is more that can be done to protect the American people," he added.

Earnest made the comment two days after a Muslim American claimed his deadly attack on an Orlando nightclub was inspired by ISIS.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, also speaking on Tuesday, said the FBI has "hundreds, if not thousands" of open investigations" going on, and he said the FBI "routinely" breaks up plots to the homeland.

At Tuesday's White House briefing, a reporter asked Earnest about President Obama and Hillary Clinton using similar language to make the same points in their speeches on Tuesday: "And so, I'm wondering if you can talk at all about if there's coordination on that," the reporter asked Earnest.

"No...I'm not aware of any advanced coordination or notification that was provided by the White House to the Clinton campaign of the president's comments today," Earnest replied. "That said, I don't think you should be particularly surprised that the president's comments and views on this topic are similar to the views and principles that are articulated by the woman who served as his secretary of state the during his first term in office.

"We often -- you often hear me indicate that the president believes it is important for his successor to build on the progress that our country has made and not scrap it. I often make that argument in the context of our country's success in digging out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and it is certainly true in that context," Earnest said.

"It also happens to be true in the context of our homeland security and our national security. The president does believe it is important that his successor is somebody who recognizes that our country is safer than it was eight years ago, that we enhanced our standing around the world, that we've strengthened our alliances -- that we have refined, and improved and strengthened our homeland security."

In his remarks on Tuesday, Obama noted, "Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world's great religions."

Clinton, speaking a short time later in Pittsburgh, said: "I have clearly said that we faced terrorist enemies who use a perverted version of Islam to justify slaughtering innocent people. We have to stop them, and we will. So if Donald suggests I won't call this threat what it is, he hasn't been listening. But I will not demonize and declare war on an entire religion."

Obama on Tuesday said, "There's no magic to the phrase 'radical Islam. It's a political talking point, not a strategy."

Clinton asked her audience, "Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us? Trump, as usual, is obsessed with name-calling,” she said. “From my perspective, it matters what we do, not just what we say.

At one point in her speech, Clinton asked, "Will responsible Republican leaders stand up to their presumptive nominee?”

Obama similarly asked, “Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance...Do Republican officials actually agree with this?”

At Tuesday's White House briefing, a second  reporter pressed Earnest on the "unlikely coincidence" that Obama and Clinton would use such similar phrases.

"Again, I'm not aware that anyone at the White House gave the Clinton campaign advanced notice of the president's comments. But I'm also not sitting here telling you that it's a coincidence," Earnest said. "I think it should be apparent to all of you that President Obama and Secretary Clinton have similar approaches and consider the homeland security of the United States a top priority.

"So I'm not making that case that it's a coincidence. I'm actually making a pretty bold case that they agree that these are principles worth fighting for and articulating and that the use of the word 'radical Islam' is a political talking point..."


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